I will begin my search at a wine house. The nearest one is called Bottomless Zhao’s and my first impression is that it’s about as inviting as a hotel on fire. It looks like the kind of place that does not have A Punch In The Face on the menu only because it is complimentary. This must be a jianghu bar!
For readers who are not so fully versed in these matters as I, let me explain.
Yes, jianghu means “the rivers and lakes,” but you will not find them on any map. It’s a metaphor referring to the wild places. Jianghu is everywhere the law is not: the forest, the marsh, the mountaintop, the bandit fortress, the wrong alley, or the bad neighborhood.
The wulin is the society of bandits, beggars, mercenaries, warlords, wizards, martial artists, hermits, and lunatics who populate the jianghu world. They gather in innumerable clans, schools, cults, and sects. These groups are aligned with and against one another via alliances, secret alliances, and rivalries, and ancient feuds. But ultimately, the fates of these groups are caught between the loyalties and ambitions of the individuals within them.
It’s every bit as dangerous as it sounds. Trust me. I’ve read many books about it.
Now that I have equipped you with a superficial but sufficient understanding of the jianghu, it is time to cross into it by striding into Bottomless Zhao’s wine house!